Many lawbreakers are using farmland and rural spaces, to illegally dump waste as opposed to using a lawful method of disposal – commonly known as fly-tipping. Not only is the practice extremely anti-social, it’s also illegal and a common problem across the UK. This can be a frustrating problem, but there are things you can do to tackle the issue, as well as steps to take to prevent the problem in the first place. Lycetts, an Oxford-based provider of agricultural and farm insurance, take an in-depth look at the issue:
What exactly is fly-tipping?
In short, it’s disposing of waste (common items include garden waste, construction waste, rubbish bags, beds, and mattresses) illegally on land that doesn’t have the correct licence to receive it.
How bad is the issue?
Reporting on ITV’s freedom of information request, The Daily Telegraph revealed just how much of a problem fly-tipping has become for the UK. Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton went as far as to say that the crime has reached “crisis levels” throughout the country.
Some regions saw a year-on-year increase of over a fifth, The Daily Telegraph found. For example, almost 40,000 reported incidents were recorded in the North London district of Haringey between November 2015 and December 2016, with more than 30,000 incidents also reported in Manchester over the same period.
Some parts of the UK have seen a reduction in the number of fly-tipping incidents, but the issue is far from resolved. In Birmingham, for instance, the number of fly-tipping cases are down by 13 per cent between November 2015 and December 2016. However, the figure during this period was still recorded at 21,000 offences.
“Fly-tipping is an epidemic, it’s reached crisis levels and something needs to be done about it.” Ms.Ogden-Newton stated. “Local authorities are overwhelmed with instances of criminal fly-tipping and we need to address this urgently.”
Fly-tipping is a particularly large issue in Scotland, according to James Cuthbertson, an account executive at Lycetts. Near to 61,000 fly-tipping incidents are recorded in this country every single year, Mr.Cuthbertson has found.
He went on to say: “The culprits tend to think of this practice as a victimless crime; but estimates put the cost to Scottish tax payers at £8.9 million a year to clear and dispose of tipped rubbish from council land. Farmers and other countryside custodians must meet the cost of clearing rubbish from private land themselves, at an average of £1,000 a time.”
What is being done?
Efforts are being carried out to attempt to tackle the issue of fly-tipping.
The BBC released figures from 2016 and 2017 that showed 1,602 prosecutions took place for fly-tipping across England. What’s more, 98 per cent of prosecutions made resulted in a conviction. During the same time period, councils across England served 56,000 fixed penalty notices in regards to cases of fly-tipping.
What are the penalties?
Fly-tipping is considered a criminal offence, and carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.
This includes those who permit fly-tipping to take place on any land that they own. However, Mr Cuthbertson acknowledges: “Fines of up to £40,000 can be imposed but, given budgetary constraints, the pursuit of fly tippers is well down the list of priorities of councils and the police. Furthermore, it is hard to gather evidence to bring a successful prosecution.”
What can I do if someone fly-tips on my land?
If fly-tipping occurs on your land, you are responsible for clearing away the waste that has been left.
It may not be immediately obvious if the fly-tipped waste is dangerous, so be cautious. Bags and drums should not be opened and piles of soil should be a cause for alarm bells as the material could be contaminated or hiding dangerous material.
Record everything you can of the fly-tipping waste you have discovered. This includes where you located the waste, as well as taking photographs if possible. After all details have been recorded, report the case of fly-tipping to your local authority:
- Those in England and Wales should head to this GOV.UK page and report fly-tipping by first entering the postcode where the waste has been discovered.
- Those in Scotland should report fly-tipping waste by either filling in a simple online form on DumbDumpers.org or contacting Stopline directly by calling 0845 2 30 40 90.
- Those in Northern Ireland should head to gov.uk and find details for their local council, who will be able to advise on the waste disposal sites and recycling centres based nearby for the safe and legal recycling or disposal of unwanted items.
Once you have reported the issue, do what you can to secure the waste to prevent it being interfered with.
Keep the following in mind when organising for the waste to be removed. First and foremost, do not take the waste to a licensed site yourself unless you’re registered as a waste carrier. If hazardous waste has been identified, it should only be carried and then disposed of by someone who is licensed to deal with hazardous waste.
If a third party is going to transport the waste for you, make sure you get the right paperwork from them. It should include details about the waste and those who are taking it away. Keep all information about clearance and disposal costs safe, as these can be recovered in the event a successful prosecution is made against the crime committed.
“In the event you wake one morning to find the midnight cowboys have paid you a visit, if the problem is severe, it is worth consulting with your insurance broker,” Mr Cuthbertson suggests. “Most farm combined policies will cover the cost of removal and disposal, less an excess. In the event of a major fly tipping incident, you could be very glad the cover is in place.”
If you observe fly-tipping taking place, make sure you keep yourself safe. As the practice is illegal, people are unlikely to take kindly to their crime being observed. Do not confront the guilty parties, but instead immediately call 999 and then make a note the number of people involved, descriptions of their appearances, details about the waste being fly-tipped and information about any vehicles used — this includes the makes of the vehicles, their colours and their registration numbers if you can make it out.
What steps can I take to protect my land?
There are measures you can implement to keep your land from becoming a fly-tipping spot.
Lockable gates restrict access to your land and should be kept shut when not in use. Strategically placing physical barriers around the perimeter makes it difficult for vehicles to get through — think earth bunds, boulders and tree trunks placed closely to each other around your land.
Fly-tippers will be put off from targeting your land if they think they’ll get caught. Therefore, work on improving visibility all around your property and its land, make sure high-quality exterior lighting is installed and in working condition, and set up CCTV cameras and appropriate signs alerting people of the technology’s presence.